For decades, cartels in Mexico have projected power over formal and illicit economies to extract profits. Their influence is so immense that they do so despite, and at times, in cooperation with local and national governments. In numerous municipalities and even entire regions across Mexico, cartels have more authority than the state. They control everything from the security apparatus to local business and government to drug production and trafficking.
Since the American and Mexican governments kicked off the war on drugs, the situation has become more dire. Their ‘cut the head off the snake’ strategy of targeting kingpins has led to the fracturing of cartels and increased violence. In Mexico today, the most influential cartels are Cartel Sinaloa, Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG), Los Zetas, Cartel del Golfo, and Cartel Juárez. The fastest growing is CJNG. Despite promising the contrary, President Obrador (AMLO) has continued the practice of relying on the military to address cartels. This reliance was demonstrated on 6 January 2023, when the government arrested Ovidio Guzmán, the son of El Chapo and a high-ranking member of Cartel Sinaloa, setting off violence across Culiacán, Sinaloa.